How to: Uyghur Homestay in Xinjiang
One of the most asked questions I receive from travelers who will be heading to Xinjiang this next travel season has to do with homestays. Is it possible to do a Uyghur homestay in Xinjiang?
The answer is, as with many things in Xinjiang…maybe.
There are many places where homestays have historically been offered, including Tuyoq Valley (near Turpan), around Yili as well as outside Kashgar. Don’t mistake this with an overnight stay at a Kyrgyz yurt, which is also an incredible experience but not quite the same.
Be warned, though – a homestay is very difficult to set up on your own. Your best bet is to go through a travel agency. FarWestChina recommends Old Road Tours to set up your homestay. They’ve received multiple glowing reviews from readers and have a great reputation.
The entrance to the Uyghur home in Tuyoq, a beautiful city about 40km east of Turpan. Before planning such an adventure be aware that these homes are VERY traditional.
There is no running water, you sleep outside near animals, and you must use an outhouse. The experience, however, is worth it!
The beds in this particular homestay were under a grape vine trellis, which is normal for the Turpan area.
The bed is usually just a raised wooden platform where traditional padded pillows and blankets are used for comfort and warmth.
Most Uyghur homestays include a traditional meal to be cooked by the owners of the home. Here the meal was a noodle soup cooked by the light of a single light bulb.
The Uyghur beds after being rolled out at night. You might notice a TV in the background and wonder why they have a TV but no running water. That’s a perfectly legitimate question…and there is no good answer!
Need to use the restroom? Watch out for the cow. Audra calls this the “manger scene” and in this particular Uyghur house you had to walk through this stable area to get to the outhouse.
Final Thoughts | Uyghur Homestay in Xinjiang
Interested in a Uyghur homestay in Xinjiang? You should be! Staying overnight at a local home is one of my favorite memories in Xinjiang and I recommend you give it a try.
It’s probably going to be a bit beyond your comfort zone, but as long as you know that going in, you should be fine.
Remember, if you’re doing any travel to Xinjiang, I highly recommend you grab a copy of the FarWestChina Xinjiang travel guide. It covers not only topics such as Xinjiang homestays, but also many others that you might not have considered.
Sounds like an amazing experience. I considered a stay with a family by Karakul Lake, but unfortunately I only had enough time for one day.
Josh on March 16th, 2011 at 1:18 am
That’s too bad! A stay in a Kazakh yurt or even one of the homes at the base of the mountain is a crazy-cool experience.
Yay for homestays! One of the best ways to experience a country and really get to know the locals…
Josh on March 16th, 2011 at 1:13 am
Thanks for your comment, Jonathan! I completely agree with you…a homestay is really one of the best ways to experience a culture and get to know real people.
I stayed with a Mongol family in Xinjiang and had a similarly interesting experience. There was a basketball court behind the house, right next to the outhouse, which was adjacent to the sheep pen.
The best part was when the neighborhood kids learned that foreigners were staying in the village. I’ve never been so popular.
One question about Uyghur homestays: Is registering with the local government required, and would your tour company take care of that? I’ve had a little trouble with border police, and that was before the latest episodes of unrest. I found that the authorities are inconsistent in their enforcement of the “no-foreigners-in-this-region” rule. A police station close to the Kazakhstan border let us go to a hot springs hotel, while one farther from the border kicked us out of a town.
Secondly, if you do have to register with the government and stay with families expecting tourists, are you sacrificing authenticity?
Josh on March 16th, 2011 at 1:17 am
Trevor, thanks for the questions and I like your blog. Interesting that you had the opportunity to stay with a Mongol family in Xinjiang as opposed to a Uyghur or Kazakh.
The answer to your first question is basically that it depends on where you are. If you’re near Turpan (where these pictures are from), nobody really cares. It’s the border regions, like you say, that pose the most risk. You’re always welcome to forgo registering and playing the dumb foreigner card if you get caught. There are risks, though.
I don’t see how you could really sacrifice authenticity in most cases. If anything, I think it just means that the family would be prepared for your visit (with food, places to sleep, etc.).
Trevor Williams on March 16th, 2011 at 1:34 am
Thanks, Josh! I’ll have to try it if I make it back to Xinjiang. Gotta love the dumb foreigner card; so useful.
Also, thanks for the kind words about the blog. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to keep it from joining the millions of others that are all but totally neglected by their owners. You’re doing a great job to keep yours going.
Looks like a fantastic experience. I wonder if I’ll be able to sandwich camping, a homestay, and a night in a Yurt into my seven days and nights in Xinjiang?
Based on yr recommendation, we had booked with Old Road Tours for a 16 days tour of Xinjiang, incorporating 3 of the budget tours in one.
We are arriving Urumqi at past midnight and looking at booking a hotel near the airport as we will be flying to Kashgar the next day. Can you recommend a cheap hotel by the airport? I had look them up and most cheap hotel near the airport is for “Mainland Chinese” only. There are 8 of us travelling together.